MEPs today debate imports of GMO maize



MEPs today debate imports of GMO maize

Parliament buildings in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Parliament will hear a petition this afternoon to halt the planned import of 10 million bags of GMO maize in a bid to protect farmers’ incomes, setting the stage for a further rise in inflation.

MPs will interrupt normal business for debate after Commerce Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria’s announcement to import grain duty-free for the next six months.

Pokot South MP David Pkosing has asked Speaker Moses Wetang’ula to suspend normal business and debate the controversial announcement.

Shipments are expected to fill the gap caused by a reduced harvest following a prolonged drought, which pushed the cost of maize meal to an average of 190 shillings in October for the two-kilo pack of 130 shillings at the start of the year.

Costly flour along with fuel and other food items drove Kenya’s monthly inflation to a 65-month high of 9.6% in October, squeezing household budgets and demand for goods and services.

The petition calls for the import to stop for fear it will drive down maize prices and hurt farmers, especially in the Rift Valley grain basket.

The Standing Orders allow a Member to request the Speaker to interrupt normal business to debate a matter of national importance.

Mr. Pkosing said the new administration is under pressure from multinational corporations to allow GMO maize.

“I have asked Parliament to suspend proceedings tomorrow (this afternoon) so that we stop all forms of importing maize, whether GMO or not, until all the maize our farmers are harvesting be mopped up by the government,” Mr Pkosing said.

He warned the government would face anger from farmers in North Rift, Central Rift and Bungoma counties over duty-free maize.

Farmers in Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, West Pokot, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Nakuru and Narok harvest maize from the long rains.

“I was sent by farmers in these areas to tell Mr. Kuria to stop importing maize until the government pays off all their crops. They want the government to announce a price of 4,500 shillings per 90kg bag,” he said.

Farmers are now selling a bag for between 4,700 and 5,600 shillings and fear the planned imports will drive prices below 1,000 shillings.

Mr. Pkosing also demanded that the government open all National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) depots and buy maize from farmers for strategic grain reserves.

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